Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Ending of 2010

Gazing Ball Before Grout Well then, here we are, a few days before the end of the year. I'm musing over events, wins and losses, lessons learned and all the associated geewhiz. . .

I've loved this year. Haven't accomplished as much as I imagined I would, but heck, I'm sitting here in a warm, happy home, my hubby well fed and content, sitting in front of the game on the idiot box, and a pleasant social event to attend this evening. How bad is that? I have no concrete idea how the next year will play out, and I'm thinking that (oooh, interruption... hubby just came over and nuzzled the back of my neck) I can make plans, and laugh at how life alters them.

So: Plans (yeah, right. Maybe this is more of a wish list?)

1. Take the Auto-CAD class at ARC College (finish it this time?) I'm signed up, have paid the fees, so...

2. Grind and grout the mosaic gazing ball I've started. (photo above of progress so far). OH! Just talked to my mosaic-ball expert, and am infused with ideas for the coming year. Classes, festivals, meetings of the pine nuts, what a shot of energy.

Patio Dec 26th 2010

3. Finish the cobblestone patio.
Pretty close, just need a little bit.
Love the part that's done so far.

4. Sort through stuff in studio and make the supplies more easily accessed, apply logic to it. (I vote this least likely to be finished in my lifetime)

5. Find some more money-paying work. Something that makes me smile when getting out of bed in the morning. (Short of that, win a reasonable lottery jackpot).

6. Work in the garden. That's a given. It's a pleasure, a blessing. It pays back every moment I put into it.

7. Take some more art classes. It doesn't really matter what kind, as long as I'm learning something new.

8. Sign up for T'ai Chi or Yoga or Chi Gong classes to keep my body in shape. I've learned this year that if I don't do something, I'm going to be in a deep world of hurt - literally! Have a flyer from a local meditation center that gives senior discounts.
9. Figure out how to tame or socialize Houdini. Didn't know how apt that name was going to be.

OK, I'm starting to daydream of stuff, so it's time to get out of my chair and start something more active than typing. Going to create an hors d'oeurve for the dinner tonight. Tiny potato pancakes with caramelized onions, creamy goat cheese, ham and fig jam...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Kitten is the Reason for this Painting

No, really! A small, ginger-tabby kitten has become a resident of our home. He is or was feral, and had not overcome that skittishness. I picked him up from his former custodians on Saturday, and since that time, have had about 7 minutes of hold time. He is being called Houdini, because he can hide ANYWHERE and disappears in the blink of an eye.

My studio is his favorite place so far. In a effort to help him become used to us being near him, I sat down in front of my easel, and started to work with oil pastels. I'd been wanting to work on a still life with a persimmon, and so began. Over the last several nights, I've been enjoying the creamy, luscious feel of these pastels, adding layer upon layer of color on the art board. He has yet to peek out to watch or even acknowledge that I'm there, but the drawing is finished (or at least, for tonight, that's what I believe.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

And Schmeres

Here are two more of the studies. The one below is further work on the one in the last blog entry.
I have another on the easel that I'm working on, probably should take a photo of it now, before I go back and paint over everything. I missed the last session of class, for various excuses, but I have a good feeling about what I did learn from this. I am likely to be back among the unemployed in January, and hope that my husband will so some nagging to keep me in the studio, instead of lapsing into the doldrums.

(Anybody who wants to nag is
welcome to do so, I will need all
the help I can get.)
I think that's why I broke down and brought a kitten home today. Pets do something to lift your spirits. They
are so immediate, and live only in
the moment. I've missed cats.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Four weeks into the painting class and it's a stretch, which, in the big scheme, is a good thing. Here are a few of the working paintings. Not finished, not anything more than exercises, but interesting anyways. The colors are a bit duller than real life, but it's my camera... I dropped it in class the first night. :^( Going to have to gather up the nickles to buy another one. It's taking pictures all cock-eyed, and the focus is off.

The number of colors on the pallett is smaller than I am used to using. The three trees are a composition that I put together to work on in class, and
the road scene is a repeat of a composition I've done before. I thought I'd try it again, with the new working style that I'm learning.
At least I am motivated to go into the studio and mush around with paint again.
As I think more about these, I'll add more comments, but it's late and my brain is fuzzy.

At least I am motivated to go into the studio and mush around with paint again.
As I think more about these, I'll add more comments, but it's late and my brain is fuzzy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Back in the (Painting) Saddle Again

I've started the painting class and done the first weeks worth of homework. Taking photos, doing thumbnail sketches, and quick value studies on small canvas's. Tomorrow I take them to class, and learn about trees.

The hardest part is coming home from work, tired, and then getting the energy up to paint. I know that I will get back into the swing of things, and this is exactly why I signed up for the class. This summer, I slowed down to a pace slower than cold molasses. Without structure and something to spur me on, I'm not doing the things that I want to do.

I sit and daydream about painting in the "old days" and wonder if I have lost the umph that I had in my 30's and 40's. I suspect it's just that I have more distractions and responsibilities now. More excuses. More... well, just more.

So, an interesting note: sitting all day at a computer is exhausting. I am not "in shape" for it. My wonderful house is a place that I have constant exercise, just walking from one end to the other, and out to the garden. My chiropractor told me that I need to force myself to get up and walk around every hour, or the compression of my spine is going to return. He's seeing the signs already. That is enough to scare me into wiggling on a regular basis, no matter how silly it looks to people who are passing by my cube. I try to remember some of the t'ai chi and chi-gong movements. Anything helps.

So, I'll post stuff here as they are worked, to give me a record of my progress in class.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Getting Back on the Horse

I've now had two weeks of being back in the corporate-job world. Life turned topsy-turvy, and the things that I've been using to image "who I am" have shifted. I've learned a valuable lesson this last few months.
  • If I do not have a structure or schedule that nudges/nags/forces me to do the things I want to do (note the "I") then they simply won't happen, short of escaping with a new book.

My painting equipment has grown a thin layer of dust, and I am starting to feel guilty about it. Then I make myself crazy with snotty little remarks to myself about a failing work-ethic. Still doesn't get things done.

What to do? I threw in some structure to fool myself, by signing up with another art instructor for a 6-week landscape painting class. Spent the money, have to show up. Actually, he has alot to teach me. Terry Miura paints in a manner that my old friend/companion Byron Rodarmel painted. That's not surprising since they both attended Art Center in Southern California. Classic art education, of which I'm envious. Guess I'll just have to pay attention in class.

With all this in mind, I think I'll brew myself a cup of tea, and go noodle around in the studio for an hour or so before my massage appointment. I have a painting I started on the camping trip than needs some brutal revision.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mixed Feelings

With the sun streaming through the blinds of my bedroom window, I burrowed under my mother's quilt for a last few minutes before slowly getting out of bed. This is the last week of lazy mornings before I return to the workforce, and I am wistful about the pace and richness of this last year.

Going back to work - to work for Verizon - is something I never imagined that I would be doing again. When I skipped happily out of the doors for the last time, humming "Another one bites the dust" to myself, it never occurred to me that I would be walking back. Yes, the circumstances are different, and yes, it's more money, and a temporary contract through a separate agency, but still...

Because I don't know exactly what I will be doing, with only a description of my possible duties, it's very like standing at the edge of a pool, wondering about the temperature of the water. I also wonder about my own skill level, my energy level and my ability to tolerate the corporate culture again. This last year I have relaxed, healed, played, spent wonderful time with Jim, my family and friends. Will I be able to come back up to speed with programs, and multitasking (a much over-rated phenomenon that indicates too much on one's plate)? Will I have time to accomplish the things that are important to me? Am I worrying unnecessarily?

This is supposed to be a temporary posting. That's one of the things that makes this palatable, for now. I can handle most anything for a few months. It will be a good thing to have money that doesn't come out of our funds, especially more than unemployment pays. Unemployment is ending soon.

So, here I am, on a Tuesday, sitting at my computer, listening to the blue jays screeching at the squirrels in the back yard, and having the time to comtemplate what my life will be like in the next few months. The house is quiet, and I am relaxed, breakfasted and coffee'd, and I love how this feels. We will see how it plays out in the next month.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Camping in the Sierra Nevadas

Back from a wonderful camping trip. The weather (except for the last night) was perfect. The surroundings were breath taking, the food was incredible, and the company of friends all one could ask for. We pitched our tent, set up a comfy bed (luxurious by previous camping standards) and had a ball.

Our campsite overlooked Trumbull Lake, elevation 9,600'. It's nestled along the escarpment on the east side of the Sierras. The rocks rise almost vertically, with little lakes dotted along their base. There are piles of rubble, (scree or talus, I think it's called) along the base, which makes it look impossible for climbers. There are trails to hike to the summit, and several of our group did that, bringing back tales of lakes, waterfalls, streams with golden trout, and even a little glacier.

The fishing is easy, and even I caught trout!
This photo is one of our group
with his catch. I didn't really think I would be fishing, since I intended to do some painting, but heck, it was fun. Did a little painting too, but there was so much to do: walks to take, things to look at, sitting and just gazing out over the lake, talking with friends. I took some photos to work from, so we will see.

It's funny, before I became unemployed, I'd never thought much about fishing, it was for other people. This last year, I've gone twice. It still seems a bit odd, when I try to imagine myself going fishing, but both times it was fun, and catching fish is exciting, no matter what anyone says. I guess the same thing holds for golfing. You just never know what life will hand you when you have a little time to play. I wonder what other things are in store.

The meadow in the forground held a few surprises. One morning, we walked past a doe, grazing along the path. We were within 10 feet of her. There were these teeny tiny little frogs, about the size of my little fingernail, moving toward the water. We walked past bear scat. (Whoopee.) Bird song, mobs of chipmunks and ground squirrels, and very few mosquitos added to the picture. I saw a beaver home. Can't say it was a dam, because it was on the edge of the lake, and not on a stream, but interesting anyway.

I am tired, happy to be home, and filled with images and thoughts that happen when one is removed from the regular environment. There is a peacefulness that happens, and I cherish that.

Oh, and I DID work on a basket...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Contemplating the Masters

The last few weeks I've been museum hopping: the De Young in San Francisco for the Birth of the Impressionists show, and the Haggin Museum for the California Impressionist show (it ended on the 15th). My brain is still processing the input. The images, the incredible artwork of the period, makes me want to chew on my brushes.

I have a different understanding of things that I've only seen in books or in slides during lectures that put me to sleep almost as soon as the lights dimmed. Breath taking. Awe inspiring. How will I overcome my intimidation?

I'm still drifting around trying to discover my own style again. I had a much stronger direction when I knew less... go figure. I guess things just take time, but it's been hard getting back to painting after this. Of course, I wouldn't have missed it, but...

In the meantime, Jim and I are working on the backyard cobblestone project. We have started 'round the tree, and did the first test batch of the sand-lock substance that holds the stones in place. I read the fine print in the MSDS sheets, and discovered that the magic ingredient is psyllium.. yes, you got it... fiber. If I run out of the supply I purchased, I guess I can just buy a couple of pounds at the health food store and grind them finely to mix into the sand. Live and learn.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Childish Joys of the State Fair

I have to confess that I am a total sucker for the state fair. I'm fortunate that Sacramento is home to it, and cheerfully go every year to be talked into the "fair specials" in the sales and technology buildings, eat corn dogs, get pricey creams rubbed into my hands and face, and otherwise walk around with a silly grin marking me as the perfect "rube".

The colors, the scent of cinnamon rolls and roasting meats, the sounds of music, kids, rides, hawkers... all blend to a heady, multi-level froth that I breathe in. I didn't bring my camera this year, (dumb!) and I had only the camera phone to grab one shot of some brilliant red tables and umbrellas that caught my eye.

So I am guilty: we walked away with a neat-o glass and tile cutter (for my mosaic gazing ball project), aloe skin cream for Jim (ok, I'll probably use it too...), a facial skin system, some lids that go on every container to seal them, and a thingy that you put on your neck to keep cool (like ice cubes in a rolled bandana). There was so much more, like the killifish that you could hatch yourself, and that back thing that you hang in and looks like an oversized fanny pack and tools and fair trade fabrics and jewelry and and and... sigh.

We will get silly, persistant phone calls from vacation companies, strange advertising via email and things that will drift in for months to come, but it's all good. I wish the vendors good sales in this economy, and know that I did my part to help. It's all we can do.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What I Did Last Week...

Just to get it out there, this is what I did last week. I started another, but it's more like a working study than one that I will finish, because I'm not happy with the texture of the surface... live a little, learn a lot. (sometimes).

Friday, July 23, 2010

Art Adventure - Taking the Train

Yesterday was a wonderful day. No kidding about that. All the elements of fabulous were included: friends, art, travel, food, good conversation, new discoveries, beautiful weather, wonderful things to look at, good books and coming home to the man who loves me. Did I mention good friends...

I took the train to Oakland, which was an adventure all by itself. While I sat in the upper deck and watched the world go by, I realized that this was the first time that I had taken a train all by myself. I felt like a very grown-up 12 year old, venturing out in the world, and experienced the same type of naive excitement I did as a kid. That was so much fun, my cheeks were tired from grinning for two solid hours.

Shallow marshy lake
I watched out the window as the scenes rolled by, like a slice through the middle of California. The central valley is a beautiful place, with lush green farms and towns dotted along the track. We passed Davis, Martinez, Fairfield, Benicia. There were marshes, small shallow lakes, golden rolling hills, and then we hit the bay.

Along the tracks there were strange outcroppings in the water, consisting of rotting pilings sticking up out of the water like jagged teeth, and buildings falling down. It was difficult to take photos out the window, but still, fascinating views of the world. old pier

By this time, the weather had changed from the hot valley sunshine, (even for early morning, it was warm) to the lovely marine layer that cools the coast. The whole area was softened by a grey mist, with occasional patches of sunlight as we entered another micro-climate.

all fall down Was there a home here once? A business like a cafe and boat dock? I can spin romantic scenes in my head and daydream about sitting on the pier and watching the lights across the water. Meanwhile, it sits there like a tumble of pick-up-sticks left behind by a careless giant.

I could find things to paint for the rest of my life here in the hills, valleys and bays of California, without ever leaving the state. I'm going to have to live to 105 to get it all in... and even then, well, there would always be more.

ground squirrel at Crab Point
Marla took me to a little place in Alameda called Crab Point. We set up our easels and played with colors for several hours, having a ball. Ground squirrels and groups of children, bicyclists and walkers passed us by, sometimes stopping, sometimes just peering quickly at what we were doing. You can see the little poser sitting on top of the rock.

We stopped for lunch, and then set up in her backyard for another quick session before I had to hop back on the train. I was hoping that Paddy, Marla's lovely ginger colored Maine Coon would pose, but he had other plans.
This day filled up my cup. My senses are charged, my heart is full, my brain is energized with ideas about art, things I want to try, new colors to play with, images that delight me and time spent with people I cherish. This is what I love. Oh, to top my bowl of happy, Marla lent me a great new book, called "Sleeping with Schubert" by Bonnie Mason, which is a hoot. I started it when it got too dark to stare out the windows. This is enough for me. Je suis content.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


This week ahead has me bouncing up and down with anticipation. I am going on an adventure that includes good friends, a train ride and painting. A journey from Sacramento to Alameda/Oakland (Jack London Square) with my easel, to be met at the station by a long time friend (Marla) to go off and paint outdoors.

Marla has been creating beautiful artwork consistantly during the years that I've been in art-hibernation, and has generously offered to share her knowledge of oil pastels with me while we are out playing with our "paints". She really WORKS at the craft, and the results are enough to make one drool.

So, art, good friends (I'll get to see her wonderful husband, another bonus), a train ride (I love trains, or traveling almost anywhere). Oh boy.

Happy Days

Friday, July 16, 2010

Working With a Live Model

So, I have come almost full circle in my own art history. Back in the early 70's, my first official art education was a life drawing class with Byron Rodarmel, at San Diego City College. It was the beginning of a lifetime journey and the inspiration that would direct my life. The tools he gave me are still relevant today, and the exercises that I dismissed as busywork are the ones that I do decades later, to keep my skills sharp.

There are weekly life-sessions at one of the local galleries, simply pay the model fee ($10 - cheap for what you are getting), and you have three hours to draw or paint. The model keeps the same pose (or as exactly as can be reproduced after breaks) and you work. I've done one session just drawing and now, one painting.

This is the first time I've painted live for .... too long to count, and never with a model that was there for three hours. I looked at my work, and don't remember having this level of competence before.
Somewhere along the line, drawing pictures of fruit and vegetables must have done some good. I wish I could share this with Byron: my delight and excitement about working again. I know he would have been pleased.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Still Life as Painting Mode

Four Friends - Oil Painting In times past, my artwork focused on patterns, colors, graphic images and things other than the old fashioned classic topics. Now, as I re-enter the realm of my creativity, I am starting at the beginning, with the basics. Still life subjects are something that I never had a great interest in painting, but now, with limited space, and a shift in focus (and eyes that are less sharp than they were 20 years ago), still life subjects hold a different type of fascination. I question what I am really seeing, and wonder why the way I perceive them is so different than how I did before.

It's not a question that I will answer easily, if ever, and in reality, as soon as I start painting, I forget the question, and fall into the lovely colors and shapes and the process itself.

My deep metaphysical self only remains in control for a short while, and then the hedonist takes hold. That's the one who prefers dark chocolate, and the bright white of gardenias. Hmmm, gardenias.... something more to paint.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Results of Painting with Susan Sarback

Sunflower The final session of painting classes with Susan Sarback is arriving soon, and these are the pieces that came out of it, plus one that I played with on my own. I can say that I've expanded my skillset, and I'm curious to see how the techniques I've been exposed to will translate in my own works. S. Sarback is a colorist, which works well with my own way of painting and creating. My feeling is that it will mesh well, when applied to my own strange methods of working.

The sunflowers and spitoon were fun to do, but in reality I was more interested in the pot, and the sunflowers were supposed to be the focal point. I have an old brass spitoon serving as a wastebasket in my bathroom, maybe I'll play with that someday.

The poppies turned out well, don't feel like throwing it under a bus. During this class, I worked with pallet knife instead of a brush. Going to have to relearn brushwork with the new color theory and application.

Blue Bottle
The blue bottle was actually a pain in the patootie, but I learned a bunch.

Peaches and Pears
I'm happy with what happened with the Peaches and Pears, but part of me wants to go back and work on it more. Susan's preference is not to get too fussy on the details, and I itch to add stuff to it. We will see how that tug-of-war comes out. Maybe some subtle glazes with a brush to add some complexity to the colors and...

One of the hazards of starting to paint is that now I am goint to have to figure out a storage system. I thought about that, and decided to begin this new part of my creative life doing smaller pieces, so that it would be easier to store, but now it's getting to be crunch time.

And, last but not least, the sunflowers that I did at home, from a bouquet bought at Trader Joe's. This one is also something that I will probably nudge and fiddle with before I turn it loose.

The next project is probably a small Tonka dump truck I picked up at a yard sale. I've done a working sketch already, and now am ready to transfer to canvas board. Maybe Sunday...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Grumpy Bones and Rototillers

First off, I want to tell you that rototillers may be a wonderful device for working the soil in your garden, but they were designed by sadistic sons-o-beaches who chortled when they understood how much my shoulders and arms were going to hurt. I curse them and their pet pomeranians too.

Jim and I had to move a small (6 ') Japanese Maple in the front yard, and had to dig a 4x4 hole, then dig up the tree, and move it to it's new home. Took two days, and I still have a mess to clean up, but I'm too danged tired. My bones are grumpy and I am walking like an old old lady.

Of course, it's on top of my walking for a half-hour each day (except yesterday) and some weight training. I'm skipping the weight training on days when I am using a shovel and the rototiller. I don't think I could hold the weights right now. Moan, whimper, grumble. Getting in shape hurts. I am such a weenie.

Meanwhile, I did spend some time painting yesterday, and after mushing around, changing the composition, decided that this painting was finished. I'm not delighted with it, but I know that I learned a few things, and am ready to tackle the next one. So many things to paint, so little time.... (and went back and did some more work on it, so will post an updated photo one of these days.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Painting, Panting and More...

Completed a 3-Day workshop on plein-air painting (fancy word for painting outside). I couldn't believe how tired I was each day, and how much energy it took to spend all day painting, even when I was sitting (took a camp chair). My eyes refused to focus by the end of the day, felt gritty (although that can be blamed on the winds), and I felt like I'd walked for miles.

Can I admit that I loved it? I had the time of my life. The days whizzed by, and I know I'll be doing more. My easel has smears of paint on it, I've refined my "kit" and I'm pondering how to improve my setup for the next time.

Found out there is a Facebook page for Susan Sarback's students, so I posted there. Might be able to find painting "buddys" so I can go out with someone to the parks and rural areas around Sacramento. I am so unaware of the world around me when I am painting, that it's probably safer to paint with a friend.

One thing that came out of this session: I am so out of shape, and out of breath when I haul stuff (thus the panting), that I must make an effort to clean up my act soon if I am going to enjoy my passion. So, have started a two week "turnaround". Prevention published a book.. (they have books for every diet under the sun, or so it seems.) I'm walking in the mornings, and two out of three days, I've worked with weights at home, used the inversion table and strretched on the large ball... (that feels soooo good.).

I also ordered a small vibration therapy unit after trying them a couple of times at festivals. It's a bit out there, and I bought the least expensive one I could find.
been looking at them for years: chiropractors have had "chi machines", and the really pricey ones at fairs have intrigued me, plus, every time I stepped on one and tried it, my joints and legs especially have felt wonderful for quite a while afterwards. Then, while watching a qigong program, the instructor taught a "shivering" or shaking technique that reminded me of the machines. Thus, a present to myself for my 60th birthday. The delivery email says it might come today. Whooo hooo. If this one is good, I might invest in a higher-end unit in the future. Also ordered some sports bras and a pair of walking shoes. Essentials, dontcha know?
I'm also thinking of some massage therapy. Something to balance the torture with a hedonistic treat that isn't chocolate or high fat... We will see.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ladies of the Baskets

Three Pine Nuts Yesterday, in the warm May weather, the Pine Nuts gathered to work on baskets. I thought I'd show some of the work that took place, in various stages of completion. Yesterday's blog had one basket, but here are a few more. Mine is noticeably missing, as is a couple others that I missed with my camera. We work primarily with pine needles, gathered where ever we can find them with long shafts (12" to 18" are the best). Joan, Donna and Linda are pictured here.

Joan's beginning

The basket on the right is one started by Joan, using some dyed needles for accent. I believe she will be doing a large basket, with embellishments.

Below is a basked being done by Peggy, who does very neat, clean work. (Much better than my own somewhat disorganized attempts.)

Peggy's Basket

Linda's Basket
The basket on the right is Linda's basket, but this one is different, as it is made with seagrass. The coloring on the center piece and the aqua thread lend a lovely feel to it, and I can't wait to see how she adds to the top edge to finish it.

Donna's Basket

This basket by Donna has a traditional feel, and illustrates the warm look of the materials. The sides have begun curving inward as it coils up.

Melinda's basket is finished, and as her first, is a lovely piece. The center is made from a slice of walnut shell, and the thread is 4 ply waxed Irish Linen.
These are samples of the fruits of our labors. While we were there, we had a chance to see Joan's beautiful jewelry work, and trade ideas for embellishments on future work.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Gazing Balls and Tequila Jello

Loretta's Basket

This is a sample of the baskets created by one of the Pine Nuts, a group of women that started making baskets up at Camp Sacramento several years ago.

Today the May meeting of Pine Nuts convened, and we met, ate, worked on baskets, laughed and traded hints and information on art, baskets, food and life in general.

The ladies gathered with pot-luck salads, home made rolls, and various goodies, including a lime jello salad made with tequila. uh, you could REALLY taste the Tequilla. I had seconds. :^)
We worked on the baskets, planned the next meeting (to gather needles from a Canary Island pine that grows in Davis) at Peggy's place, and talked and talked and talked....

Pine Nuts Gathering at Joan's
Pink Gazing Ball

Several Baskets were finished, new ones planned and lots of progress on ones started months before. This was a lovely spring afternoon, a sunny break between storms, with squirrels in the cherry tree, jays screeching overhead, bees working the citrus blossoms in the orange tree. Visually interesting, socially fulfilling, tastebuds delighted, it was almost perfect. Oh, and I picked up a small, old Tonka toy truck to use as a painting prop.

The meeting was at my friend Joan's; an artist who plays with multiple mediums, including jewelry and some lovely mosaic gazing balls that are scattered around her garden. They are covered bowling balls with glass tiles, and I think I have a source for one or two so I can do one myself. Joan's garden is scattered with columns, statuary, and these marvelous balls. I am inspired.

Just add gazing balls to my list of backyard projects.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Draggin' My .... Feet

I finally figured out why I've been feeling so achy and blah. I'd had a suspicion that the new meds that the military doc had given me were the reason, but couldn't find anything in the literature they stuff in the Rx bag to account for it. This morning, my hands and feet, in fact - all my joints, were swollen. I happened to look at the bottle of the new blood pressure meds, and saw that the amount of diuretic was 25% of what I normally was taking. Not enough, by a long shot. I had to take off my wedding ring, it was cutting into my fingers. Retaining water would account for all my joints hurting, and lack of energy, general crankyness.

After calling the Military Treatment Facility, leaving a message, someone called me back, and tried to tell me I was mistaken, that I was getting the right dosage, but I think she was only someone who was trying to interpret a chart, without specific knowledge of anything pharmaceutical, so I explained it slowly in small words, and asked that the doc call me. At least I have an appointment to see him on Friday.

Using the military medical system is going to take me some time to get used to it, and I realize now that I am going to have to watch everything with sharp eyes, and not take for granted that they are necessarily smarter or more vigilent than I am.

Meanwhile, I don't have much energy. I worked on the pavers a couple of days ago, did two sets while Jim took apart his truck in the garage, and I'm still recovering.

This too shall pass.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Backyard Project Starts Up Again

The Season of Cobblestone Making has officially begun for the year. Last year, we ended the season in front of the mulberry tree, after having done half the patio with hand made cobblestone pavers. During the winter, we got the bright idea to build a casting table to do the pavers, instead of bending over to do them in place, on the ground. My back, shoulder and knees took a horrible toll last year, and I was not looking forward to the pain, as much as I wanted to finish the patio.

Today, we began the first casting and it went well. My back and knees are not on fire, and while I can tell I've lost some muscle strength from not mixing cement, I can do a little happy dance.

The rest of the patio pavers should go into place much faster than the last session, since we don't have to do all the preparation work, just smooth the sand base and add the stones, paint them, and then fill in with the sand/Sand-Lock mix. Maybe we will have it done before the official start of summer... that would make me very, very pleased.

We bought the Bocce Balls for a celebration (to play, not to eat them....) so when the stones are all painted and pretty, we will throw a summer party.

In the meantime, we've discovered a wonderful new creature that lives in our garden: a "sharp tail snake". The little guy must be all of 9 inches long, and it's a reddish brown, very slender, and lives under things like boards. I'm afraid I disturbed it when I took pictures today, but I'm hoping that it stays. They eat bugs, and this one doesn't move very fast and isn't very scarey. One more thing that makes this house feel like country, along with wild turkeys, skunks, raccoons, possums, etc.

Quick note: we did another two squares this morning. Went well, but I can sure feel the work I did yesterday in my arms. The good news is that my muscle tone should be back to "normal" for this in a short time. Decided to make another casting table, because there is always a tiny bit of cement mix left over, enough to cast one or two stones (three this morning) and I don't want to be bending over working them at the end of the session. Also, we can do three squares instead of two, once my stamina is up.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April Showers and My Flowers

Iris in backyard This spring has been glorious so far. We have had days of balmy breezes, rainstorms, wind, sun and crisp mornings. The flowers in my garden are lovin' it; in fact, all of Sacramento is blooming, a city in living color. Azaleas, camillas, dogwood, lavender, the list goes on. My roses are blooming, and, as you can see, my iris. Some of the stalks of iris have up to 6 blossoms, and the blooms are huge.

Yesterday and today are rainy, but the days before that were warm and sunny, and the sun will be out again in another day or so. I couldn't ask for more. Today, a journey to the local Starbucks is on the list, not for coffee to drink, although I might indulge, but coffee grounds for the plants. Good compost, and I'm told that it repels snails and slugs, although I'll need a couple of cubic yards to help the buggers in my vegetable garden. They are HUNGRY, and have eaten numerous plantings. Grrrrrrrr.
deep pink roses
Lately I've had reasons to think about how small this world is, and how much we are affected by events happening on the other side of the globe.

The volcano in Iceland is an example. As we watch the news, or read blurbs on our home pages, it doesn't feel connected, yet everything that happens has a way of touching us in one form or another. Here is how the connection works in my universe: The volcano goes off, and I get to see Alice in Wonderland and eat Chinese food. Like that?

Here is the path: Four of my friends have planned a trip to Paris for a long time, a dream trip for them. They had to cancel because of the airline nightmare, and so, this week, they are home, and not at work. Since they are here, they called us and asked if we had seen the movie, and did we want to go and then eat at Frank Fats afterwards... so six of us went to the movies and ate Chinese. Jim and I probably would not have made it to the movie before it went away, and while I love Chinese food, we have been conservative on eating out lately. So, there you have it, volcano blows, and we eat Chinese.

Fair Oaks Rooster I've been spending more time with friends lately, treasuring this slower-paced life. Last week I had lunch at a little vegetarian restaurant in Fair Oaks, called the Sunflower. It served the best nutburger/patty melt I've ever eaten. My taste buds were dancing in my mouth. I know that it was on wheat bread, but it was so good. There aren't many tables (just a long picnic style bench inside, and little ones out of doors), but Melinda and I sat at a little wrought iron cafe table in the sun, and watched the chickens of Fair Oaks. These birds wander around in all their glory, and are fearless. I have them on my list of "must paints".